Burson to tackle challenge of redeeming USOC's tarnished image

WASHINGTON: John Naber, president of the US Olympic Alumni Association, told Sports Illustrated last week that even Jesus couldn't redeem the damaged image of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) these days.

WASHINGTON: John Naber, president of the US Olympic Alumni Association, told Sports Illustrated last week that even Jesus couldn't redeem the damaged image of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) these days.

But starting now, Burson-Marsteller will try.

Faced with congressional discipline and harsh media attention following a rash of scandals and resignations, the USOC has hired Burson to help convince lawmakers that the group can still manage itself capably. The effort will begin immediately, and will continue indefinitely, according to USOC insiders.

The USOC was created by Congress in 1978 as the sole custodian of the Olympic Games in America. Its mission includes training athletes, bringing the Games to the US, and underwriting the competition.

But the group has gone through three presidents in four years, with the most recent resignation coming just weeks ago. Several executives resigned in late 2002 after the internal ethics committee failed to oust the current CEO for using his post to promote his brother's business.

Fearing that the USOC has become incapable of managing itself, a handful of congressmen have sought hearings to determine whether a federally mandated change to its governance structure is in order.

Details of the contract were not disclosed, but Burson execs called the price tag "modest" and the campaign "challenging."

Darryl Seibel, CCO at the USOC, expressed faith in Burson's ability to regain the faith of its stakeholders. "Burson has a history of working with the USOC and other Olympic committees," he said. "That familiarity is very important to us."

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